In a huge setback to the Congress party in Madhya Pradesh, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) led by retired high court judge Justice Chandresh Bhushan has concluded that a whistleblower, Prashant Pandey, misled investigators probing the Professional Examination Board (PEB) scam by claiming that he had ‘original’ excel sheets obtained from former PEB principal system analyst Nitin Mahindra’s computer.
In fact, the SIT – in a report submitted to the high court on April 22 –held that the pen drive provided by the whistleblower contained forged excel sheets. The court endorsed the SIT report on Friday.
On April 16, the high court had directed the SIT to get the information contained in the pen drive verified, and submit a copy of the forensic /cyber expert’s opinion. The same was sent to the SIT.
The high court had received the pen drive and a copy of the forensic/cyber expert’s opinion from the Truth Laboratory through advocate Badar Mahmood, appearing on behalf of Pandey, in the case, which was filed in the Delhi high court.
The whistle-blower claimed to have the original excel sheets pertaining to the MPPEB scam. They were furnished before the Delhi high court and later transferred to the Madhya Pradesh high court, which is monitoring the investigation into the multi-layered scam.
The SIT’s interim report dated April 22, 2015, submitted in a sealed cover, was opened before a division bench of Chief Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Alok Aradhe on Friday.
After going through the interim report, the court expressed satisfaction over the SIT verification of the pen drive as well as the documents it contained. It then took the SIT’s report on record.
“In the interim report, the SIT found prima facie that the pen drive and documents were forged, and they were misleading the investigation,” said additional advocate general PK Kaurav. “Certain reasons have been cited by the SIT to arrive at this conclusion,” he added.
When asked to list the reasons cited by the SIT, Kaurav said that he didn’t possess a copy of its interim report. He also said that the SIT report did not refer to scam-related documents furnished by Congress leader Digvijaya Singh from time to time.
The special task force also filed a detailed report regarding compliance with directives issued by the SIT in the past. The court adjourned the hearing on the STF report for April 27.
Shocked, says Digvijaya
Reacting to the developments, veteran Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said, “I am shocked and disappointed at the order, as told by the Press. The Truth Lab report presented by the whistleblower through his lawyer has been held as fake and misleading.”
He said it was “surprising” that the court didn’t allow the Truth Lab to explain its findings, despite the fact that they had offered to do so in the interest of justice. Singh also expressed disappointment that it did not interrogate Pandey.
“I believe that the SIT, which confessed to me its inability to do anything in the matter, has based its opinion on reports received from Indore police, STF and forensic lab of Gujarat – who are prima facie responsible for tampering the excel sheet and keeping it under wraps,” he said.